Democratic challengerKelly questions if Sununu is really pro-choice if he supports Kavanaugh

  • FILE - This panel of 2018 file photo shows New Hampshire Democratic gubernatorial nominee Molly Kelly, left, and Republican Gov. Chris Sununu. Kelly won her party's Tuesday, Sept. 11 primary and will challenge Sununu in the November general election. (AP Photos, File) Thomas Roy

For the Monitor
Published: 10/3/2018 5:10:06 PM

Gov. Chris Sununu says he’s waiting to see the results of an on-going FBI investigation into sexual assault allegations against Brett Kavanaugh before he decides whether he will continue to support President Donald Trump’s U.S. Supreme Court nominee.

Sununu also underscored his support for women’s reproductive rights.

“I’m pro-choice. I support Roe v. Wade,” he said. “I’ve been very clear about that for every single one of my years as an elected official.”

New Hampshire’s Republican governor spoke to reporters a couple of hours after former state Sen. Molly Kelly, his Democratic challenger in November’s gubernatorial election, once again called on Sununu “to rescind his support” for Kavanaugh.

Kelly questioned the governor’s commitment to women’s reproductive rights.

“How can you say that you’re so pro-choice for women and be so supportive of a nominee” such as Kavanaugh, who Democrats worry would vote to topple the landmark Roe v. Wade 1973 ruling that constitutionally protected a women’s right to have an abortion.

Kelly spoke with reporters after touring the Equality Health Center in Concord. The non-profit health center on Main Street opened a year after the Roe. v. Wade ruling and highlights that it’s New Hampshire’s longest standing abortion provider.

Kelly’s focused on the issue since late June, after the surprise retirement announcement from Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy, which gave Trump a prime opportunity to replace the crucial swing vote on the high court with a reliably conservative justice.

She’s targeted Sununu for joining nearly 30 other GOP governors in late July in signing a letter in support of Kavanaugh’s nomination. Kelly repeatedly called on Sununu to drop that support after allegations from Christine Blasey Ford – that Kavanaugh sexually assaulted her in the summer of 1982 when they were both high school students – were made public early last month.

Ford, a research psychologist and professor in California, testified about the incident in a blockbuster Senate Judiciary Committee hearing last Thursday. Kavanaugh, who testified following Ford, repeatedly denied her allegations, as well as those from two other women.

A vote by the full Senate by Kavanaugh’s confirmation has been delayed a week to allow the FBI to investigate the allegations. 

Sununu, speaking with reporters following an Executive Council session, praised Ford’s testimony and the investigation.

“It was wonderful to see that Dr. Ford had the opportunity to come forward and tell her story. And I think we can all agree that that took an immense amount of courage and it has clearly inspired other folks to come forward and tell their stories, which is an incredible positive movement, just culturally,” the governor said.

“I called for an investigation and I was very happy to see that they took up that call. And that is playing out now and we’ll see where those results come out,” he added.

Senate Republican leadership delayed a floor vote on the nomination to allow for an FBI probe – something Democrats had vigorously pushed for – after realizing they didn’t currently have the votes to confirm Kavanaugh.

Sununu said the investigation will determine if he still supports Kavanaugh. 

He said he wasn’t bothered by Kavanaugh’s emotional and at times angry pushback at the allegations during his testimony last week.

“Given the severity of the accusations, I can’t imagine anyone not being emotional in that situation. That’s a normal human emotion. I don’t want to judge whether his emotions were justified or not. This man’s life is changed forever, one way or another,” Sununu said.

Kelly, as she’s done in the past, tried to tie Sununu to the president.

“I continue to ask Chris Sununu to rescind his support for the appointment of Brett Kavanaugh but he continues to stand with Donald Trump,” she said.

Last week, Trump called Ford’s testimony “compelling.” But Tuesday night, at a campaign rally in Mississippi, Trump mocked Ford.

Kelly called the president’s words “unacceptable. It’s disgraceful. It’s embarrassing.”

Sununu didn’t directly address Trump’s remarks, instead criticizing both Republicans and Democrats.

“I think everyone in Washington has made a circus of a very serious issue,” he charged.

“I can’t control that circus in Washington D.C.,” Sununu said. “What I can do as governor is control what we do here in New Hampshire, which is why we’ve been so aggressive about fighting for victims of assault, fighting for things like Marsy’s Law, which I will remind you we fought very hard for. I was the only statewide elected official to stand up, knowing it was going to be a tough battle,” he recounted.

Where was Kelly on the issue, he asked.

“My opponent sat silent on the sidelines; said nothing the entire time about Marsy’s Law,” Sununu said. “That’s a constitutional amendment that can really change the culture of what we’re doing here in this state and it needs leadership.”

Kelly criticized Sununu for saying he’s pro-choice while simultaneously supporting Kavanaugh.

“If you say you stand with women and you’re there for choice, you need to rescind your support,” she said. “What he has offered is not enough.”

Kelly’s emphasis of the Kavanaugh controversy is coming under attack by some in the GOP.

“She appears to be confused as to what political office she is running for,” former New Hampshire GOP chair Jennifer Horn told the Monitor. “Lately, she’s more focused on federal issues, like the nomination of Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court, than she is on New Hampshire.”

“While we are all impacted by the decisions of the Supreme Court, state governors have zero influence over these nominations, making it something of an odd campaign issue for a gubernatorial candidate,” she added.

While Democrats are already energized heading into November’s midterm elections, some Republicans say the Kavanaugh confirmation battle with benefit their party, by energizing their base.

“There’s not a single voter who’s anti-Kavanaugh who’s going to vote for Gov. Sununu. Period,” said David Carney, a veteran national GOP consultant who’s based in New Hampshire. “The more she (Kelly) talks about it, it may get more cheers from her crowds, but they’re already for her.”

But Lucas Meyer, a Democratic strategist and president of the New Hampshire Young Democrats, countered that Republicans are ignoring the #MeToo movement at their own peril.

“If conservatives believe that backing someone as unfit for the Supreme Court as Kavanaugh will help them win elections, in a time of reckoning for our society’s systemic epidemic of sexual violence, they are pretty oblivious of the moment we are in and will realize their failure to stand up for what’s right once the polls close in November,” he argued.

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